The World Stage Jazz Festival is one of the season’s best, a day of nothing but jazz with plenty of that Billy Higgins feel. People take chances on this stage. The extraordinary vocalist Dwight Trible will be in his element here, having cut his teeth with Leimert Park legend Horace Tapscott. (Trible’s LACMA appearance a couple weeks ago was a complete triumph, the audience cheering like he was a rock star. You’d think some label would catch on.) Violinist Karen Briggs should swing like mad. Percussionist Taumbu’s International Ensemble mixes various rhythmic strains of the African diaspora with some intense jazz, and it’s a killer brew. Drummer Winard Harper will bring in a tough hard bop sextet, and saxist Azar Lawrence will get positively stratospheric. But the highlight has to be Charles Owens’ tribute to Herman Riley. Man, how Riley stole the show last year. People still talk about it. And Owens — who always plays his heart out at the Stage — doesn’t sound like Riley, not at all, so it’ll be fascinating to hear what he comes up with. He certainly has the skills and heart to tap into the late saxophonist’s astounding feel and soul, and feeling is what the World Stage is all about. This town has jazz chops, incredible chops. But feel? Soul? That can be a little more scarce. Skill and passion do not always run together. Maybe that is one of the things that made World Stage founder Higgins so special. Tapscott too. The sounds emanating from Leimert Park go deep, to the very heart of jazz, and then take it as high and far as it can go, and even beyond. Experience it for yourself this Sunday under the tarp at 43rd and Degnan in Leimert Park. It runs from noon to 7 p.m. And it’s free.
On Friday the Bobby Bradford Mo’tet is back at Café 322. Bradford’s got a vision, man, and he takes chances realizing it. When it works and the band is swinging crazy, or laying down a gorgeous, funereal “Sideman” with Chuck Manning’s extended tenor solo, it’s stunning. Now take trumpeter Carl Saunders: He learned his craft in big bands, yet his wonderfully creative soloing is as expressive as the wildest free trumpeter even while staying within the tradition. He plays with his sextet at LACMA on Friday and with a trio at Spazio on Wednesday.
On Saturday terrific local pianist Theo Saunders fronts a quartet with saxist Benn Clatworthy and drummer Jimmy Branly at Landings Airtel Plaza Hotel. Saunders never runs out of new ways to get at the melody; every performance is something utterly new. If you want a World Stage preview, get down to the Café Metropol on Saturday, where dreadlocked saxist Michael McDaniel’s quartet includes drummer Sonship Theus and pianist Nate Morgan, who Chet Hanley says “is as good a player as anyone in the business.” The vibe will be nice.
We’re losing another of our local greats as drummer Matt Slocum splits for New York, but on Monday he says goodbye with a superb double bill at 2nd Street Jazz Bar and Grill (formerly Land on 2nd): first a quartet including saxist Walter Smith and pianist Josh Nelson at 8 p.m., and then a second quartet with saxists Matt Otto and Ben Wendel at 10 p.m. Unbelievable. B3 devotees will be at Hollywood & Highland on Tuesday, when the mighty Joey DeFrancesco Trio will be laying down great, greasy organ grooves. (For a tasty appetizer, our own Joe Bagg Organ Trio is at Vibrato on Friday.) On Wednesday the very fine Cross Hart Jazz Experience is at Sangria on Wednesday, and the formidable Don Menza slays all at Charlie O’s on Thursday.
For Latin lovers, Bobby Matos is at the Farmers Market on Friday. Cubop is releasing The Best of Bobby Matos, and it’s a killer. Check him out and pick it up (and this venue is a blast too). And the next day he plays at the Biltmore. Also Saturday, John Densmore & Tribal Jazz return to LACMA for a 5 p.m. set. Later that night Katia Moraes & Sambaguru shake things up at La Ve Lee. Francisco Aguabella brings his excellent Latin jazz (with Benn Clatworthy blowing some fierce tenor) to Spazio on Monday and the Autry museum on Thursday. That Autry is a fun venue — the salsa gets intense, the dancers fill the floor, the margaritas flow. Then head over to Vibrato for bassist Pablo Motta’s Los Angeles Tango Quartet and let the night ebb to the strains of Piazzolla.